Typical Saturday morning. Got up, the dog and I both needed to pee quite urgently (I went first), made coffee, opened FB and found out Ali was dead. Goddamn 2016! Seriously, enough already. I know, I know, people die all the time and from a statistical standpoint 2016 probably isn’t any different, but it feels that way. It feels as if one by one all the lights of my childhood and young adulthood are being put out. Every death makes my life a little dimmer.
And what a light Muhammad Ali was! I was vaguely aware of some controversy involving the draft and a name change and how all the old crocks at Nell’s Luncheonette would go grumbly and cranky when someone said, “Ali”, but mostly I remember Muhammad Ali bursting into my life in 1971 with his epic battle with Joe Frazier. The media frenzy! The trash talk! Ali and Cosell yukking it up, bickering, and trying to out blowhard each other. Was Ali ‘floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee’ yet? I don’t know, but it matters not, he was still the first rapper this girl ever heard. Ali predates the Sugar Hill Gang by a good 8 years and don’t let anyone tell you different.
Ali from that time is part of a much larger tumble and mishmash, a messy audio and video file in my head marked ‘Early 1970s- Hanna-Barbera, fringed purses, shag carpet, and the joy of Saturday morning before Mom got up’. Ali is in there with the Harlem Globetrotters appearing on Scooby-Doo. With Mr Owl counting licks on Tootsie-Pops. And this…
The picture quality sucks, best I could find though.
Another player from that era, perhaps a bit later but still wearing bell bottoms and a horrible haircut, was the treacle-fest novelizations of songs and movies by undisputed king of the unhappy ending- Herman Raucher. How many times have I read ‘Summer of ’42’? Far more than the number of licks it takes to reach the center of a Tootsie-Pop. Raucher also penned the screenplay and novelization of ‘Ode To Billy Joe’- a delightfully schlocky takeoff on Bobby Gentry’s classic song ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ (which we will get to in a minute). Starring in Raucher’s version was the dynamic duo of Robbie Benson and Glynnis O’Connor, a pairing which is the apotheosis of everything terrible and wonderful about entertainment in the mid-70s. Please, do NOT get me started on Robbie Benson movies, we’ll be here all day. (Ice Castles!!!!!)
In the weird not weird way of the flow along the cosmic consciousness/internet my darling friend Mary did a meme about the song ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ and it’s so fitting on this morning when I am mourning Ali that it kind of makes me feel a little better.
The Saturday 9 Meme of ‘Ode To Billie Joe’
1) This song takes places on “the third of June,” which is described as “another sleepy, dusty Delta” day. Describe the weather where you were on Friday, June 3, 2016. Yesterday was misty and humid and what used to be described as ‘close’. As if you were being bear hugged by a fleshy sweaty aunt.
2) In this song, the family sits down to eat and discuss the doings of their friends and neighbors. Mama, Papa, Brother and Sister were at the table. Who did you have dinner with on Friday? Sebastian was at work so it was just me and Mick. My darling had decreed there was to be no cooking. I’d had a hella tough week physically so he made me choose my preferred take-out. I am trying to be budget-minded because the summer paycheck draught is upon us but Mick had his bossypants on and I am helpless against an offer of General’s chicken after a long-ass sweaty exhausting day at work anyhow. There were spring rolls too!
3) Young Billie Joe MacAllister playfully put a frog down another kid’s back. Do you see many frogs where you live? See? Not too often. Hear? Constantly. Though I am no fan of hot weather and always mourn the end of winter’s cold, the sound of the spring peepers is the truly the first herald of the turn of the season and their cheeping whirr is beautiful. Right now we have the basso croaking of bullfrogs on the make and the endless Amazonian rain forest racket of the tree frogs. Add in those stupid boasting owls and nighttime here is as noisy as Times Square.
4) This song made Mississippi’s Tallahatchie Bridge famous. What’s the name of a bridge in your neighborhood? Oy, oy, oy! Until very recently the closest bridge had no official name but it looked like this:
But some jackass at the DOT (who probably got a HUGE kickback) had it torn down and replaced with a bland concrete overpass. They cut down all the surrounding trees, put a culvert into the river and just made this awful blah piece of anonymous road. It looks like shit and has all the charm of smelly laundry.
5) Bobbie Gentry often performed with Glen Campbell. Mr. Campbell’s family is very open about Glen’s battle with Alzheimer’s. Is anyone in your life facing this terrible disease? Aside from MIL whose vagueness is stress-related, no, not presently. But statistically your humble correspondent has a very big and very real risk for Alzheimer’s. To add to the fun- early onset Alzheimer’s! Now when a word escapes me or I am reminded of something I forgot (and didn’t even know I’d forgotten!) I have an “Oh shit, too much dope smoking as a teenager or Alzheimer’s?” moment. So. Much. Fun.
6) “Ode to Billie Joe” was made into a movie directed by Max Baer, Jr. Mr. Baer is better known for playing Jethro Bodine in a famous 1960s era sitcom. Can you name it? Of course. ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’. Long before I had a name for it (feminism) I always wondered why it was so humorous that Miss Hathaway had the hots for Jethro. She was patient, kind, generous, and the real brains behind her shitty hotheaded boss’s success at Commerce Bank. Big dopey Jethro could have done a lot worse than Jane Hathaway.
7) Bobbie Gentry made one of her last public appearances in 1981 on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Johnny is now seen in reruns on the Antenna TV channel. Think of the last TV show you watched. Was it new or was it a rerun? The last show I watched was ‘Mysteries at the Museum’ on Travel channel. And yes, it was a rerun, it was the episode about the furry trout.
8) In 1967, when this song was popular, Sweden changed its traffic laws and Swedes began driving on the right. Have you ever driven in a foreign country? If so, did you have a hard time adapting to their laws? I may have driven in Canada but have no specific memory of doing such. For some odd reason the ex was fixated on Niagara Falls and we went there a lot. (His other travel fixation was the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, it was the ONLY place we were allowed to go in DC. Not the any of the other Smithsonian museums, nor any of the monuments or famous buildings. Friends, there are just so many times you can visit The Spirit of St Louis before you wish Lindberg had crashed into the Atlantic and spared everyone the grief.) The only other foreign country I’ve been to is Mexico and I didn’t do any driving there either. Your auto insurance is invalid once you cross the border and I truly didn’t want any hassles with Allstate.
9) Random question: Which would you rather have more of — compliments or hugs? Sounds easy, but I’m overthinking this one. Though I am a constant giver of compliments- always sincere, btw, a bullshit compliment is just an inverted insult, I graciously accept those given to me but always secretly feel they are undeserved. My Chanel grandmother gave me a piece of advice I took to heart and always use- never make a man feel stupid for giving you a compliment or a gift, or he will soon stop doing both. I expanded this beyond the romantic and apply it in all situations where praise might be given. Women are taught to deflect compliments with self-deprecating comments and a laundry list of their perceived flaws- example: “Terrific meal, Female Person!” “Oh no it wasn’t! I overdid the salt and forgot the chutney and besides I’m a stupid cow and should be thanking YOU for bothering to come to my shitty house and eating my horrible food even though I suck and the food sucks and my dishes are ugly.” “Uh, thanks?” See? Totally dumb.
On the other hand I am almost always the hugger not the huggee. Too big, I think. People tend to hug downward. Moms hug kids, kids hug stuffed animals. Large to small, you see? Comfort and lovin’ are offered to those we perceive as needing them and we giants are rarely (if ever) seen as vulnerable. I occupy the Groot place in the social dynamic. When the shit hits the grit I spread out my branches and protect everyone else. I don’t mind, it’s what I was born to do, I think. I’m just saying. Despite the mocking trope, nobody ever really does hug a tree.
However the day is getting on and I’m still futzing around here in my bathrobe. Thanks, Mary. Perfect timing. RIP, The Greatest, hope you and Cosell are having a gas catching up. Appreciate you coming by, blog friends.
This tree is LEAFING now, heh, ~LA